“At zero meridian, in the central zone
close to the limit and far from the end
between two valleys with clear skies
over a field with a starry horizon
there is a small but immense factory
that belongs to a wise old man
who survives because he thinks.”
René Pérez Joglar (Residente Calle 13)
Yesterday was the premier of the short film “Así de grandes son las ideas” (“Ideas are that great”) will premiere in the elvecindariocalle13 YouTube channel; a joint collaboration by René Pérez Joglar, a.k.a “Residente”, co-leader of the critically acclaimed band Calle 13, and animator Quique Rivera.The origin of this organic video-artist is similar to that of the band’s some nine years ago: born from a need and an idea that at first seemed outlandish,but managing transcendence reach other dimensions.
The entire process of creating this character lasted nine months and animation was done using the stop-motion technique, a laborious process involving the repeated photography of stationary objects moved in small increments for each individual shot, creating the illusion of motion. The 5 animated minutes for this song, entailed 70 days of filming during the months of October 2013 and March 2014. The final piece is composed of more than 7,200 photographs.
When describing to us his experience with this project, René commented, “I had fun throughout the whole process and I managed to transport myself to my beginnings as an animator at art school. Quique is the best stop motion animator I know, and that’s why I consider it a privilege to work on this project together. The method I used to write the song’s lyrics was the same I use to write scripts and stories. The most enjoyable part of the process was to watch how Quique was bringing lyrics to life, in an artisanal way, and turning them into something physical”.
In 2011, Quique Rivera, a plastic artist specializing in stop motion, and an enthusiast of Calle 13’s work, had been accepted to the prestigious master’s program in experimental animation from the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts). It was then that he got the idea to ask Pérez Joglar to work together on an animated video for one of the songs from the band’s album “Entren los que quieran” (Come in those who want to) that would also serve him for his first year’s requisite project at CalArts.
For Pérez Joglar, art is one of his passions, and cinematographic filming one of his major goals. That’s why he completed his Bachelor’s degree on Fine Arts at the School of Plastic Arts of San Juan (Puerto Rico), and a Master’s degree on Fine Arts, specialized in Animation, from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia. As part of his thesis project, he produced the short film (S = emp2 (Sexo = Energía Masa Placer al cuadrado; in English, Sex = Energy Mass Pleasure squared), which he presented in a short film competition in Madrid, Spain, winning a 2nd place. In addition, René conceptualizes Calle 13’s music videos and is an essential participant throughout the entire production process.
After several attempts to meet, delayed by the band’s busy schedule, René Pérez Joglar and Quique Rivera managed to get together in 2012 to discuss the thesis project. It was then that they realized that the development and production of this short film would entail the same time frame that René Pérez Joglar had set for himself for writing and releasing the band’s 5th album. The fact that he was planning on writing “a different song, sort of strange”, with cinematic values and designed for a visual piece added to the equation. He already had in mind three possible ideas for the theme song, among these, a character that was “a time surgeon” able to perform operations on seconds in order to control their duration.
Pérez Joglar began defining the personality of the old wise man, detailing the things that motivated him, the time-space-place in which he lived, and the physical attributes that would allow him to outlast the end of the world. He spoke to Rivera about giving the old wise man characteristics of other species: the longevity of the Galápagos Islands turtle, whose metabolism prevents its vital organs from being damaged, the tongue of the chameleon, which is among the longest of any animal in relation to body size, the caterpillar which has the most acute sense of smell. Pérez Joglar started writing his lyrics describing the old wise man, while Rivera began constructing the physical character and making the first animation tests.
“He has telescopic vision, turtle skin
chameleon tongue and the sense of smell of the caterpillar.
The old man is surgeon of time
he operates on every instant in cold blood”
To create the character, Rivera used plasticine to sculpt the head and the torso; then hands and legs; generating 16 solid resin molds for the wise man alone. Those he would fill with silicone to achieve the expressiveness of movement they desired. The framework consisted of an inner joint structure, made of wire, thread and epoxy resin, which would provide the flexibility, yet tautness required to keep the character standing in the correct pose.
Pérez Joglar suggested using an insect that would hatch from an egg as the wise man’s food. The Ephemeral fly, also known as “Mayfly” was chosen because of its peculiarly short life span, once reaching adulthood. It is the longest surviving species of winged insects existing today. To create this figure, Rivera turned to his father, Joseph ‘Cuco’ Rivera, who is an experienced craftsman in the making of artificial decoys for fishing, who helped in the application of many of the same techniques.
To keep production costs down, Rivera opted to recycle objects when working on the set design. Factory tanks were made of soda cans and other canned food that he painted to give them the effect of looking like rusty old machine parts. A considerable amount of the set design was accomplished by creatively assembling various pieces of plumbing and lawn irrigation systems.
In late summer of 2013, Pérez Joglar finished the verses of the song “Así de grandes son las ideas”. To establish the duration of the verses and chorus, Pérez Joglar and Eduardo Cabra, co-lead of Calle 13, music producer and composer, recorded the song using a click track (metronome) that would serve as reference when filming the first reference shots. The challenge was to create a visual narrative to form a bridge between the animations created for the verses. The chorus turned out to be the backbone of the song.
Rivera sees this opportunity as a privilege and an unforgettable experience. “Así de grandes son las ideas” is a full collaboration that combines Pérez Joglar’s idea and concept with Rivera’s artisanal capacity to bring it to life through animation. “It’s a conversation between artists, each interpreting in their own way and in their particular art media, the same concept… and the result of this joint collaboration has been exceptional”, said Rivera.
Post-production began on March, 2014, and the animation was completed in early May, 2014, receiving rave reviews from the thesis defense committee and the department of Experimental Animation at CalArts. One of the committee members, Maureen Furniss, indicated that this piece had raised the school’s level quality of stop animation to the next level. This statement becomes even more relevant considering that several stars of the stop-motion technique graduated from CalArts, such as: Tim Burton, Henry Selick, and more recently Helder Sun, Jamie Caliri, Kang Min Kim and Kirsten Lepore, among others.
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